Mon
Feb 4 2013 2:00pm

The Dresden Files Reread: Book 12, Changes Pt. 2

The Dresden Files Reread: Book 12, Changes Pt. 2

In our last post, we covered the first half of Changes, a game-changer of a novel that threatens to change many of the aspects of Harry Dresden’s life. The last post ended with Harry making a monumental decision. In this one, we’ll see if that decision pays off.

Highlight for spoilers: Harry did it, he finally gave in and accepted Mab’s offer to be the Winter Knight (Major Change #5). He killed Lloyd Slate, he had a union of some kind with Mab. All to save his daughter, Maggie, a hostage of the Red Court of vampires. Maggie is going to be the central piece in a ritual that will wipe out Harry’s bloodline. Highlight for spoilers.

After Harry’s out of body experience, he returns to his body where Butters, our favorite medical examiner, is trying to revive him. But Harry’s back is fixed due to Mab’s power. Then a gunman comes into the room and shoots Butters in the back.

Harry is restrained and without his shield bracelet, but he uses his magic, augmented by Winter Knight mojo, and freezes the gunman’s gun. Molly and Father Forthill slow him down enough that Butters is able to take the man down with the defibrillator. He was wearing a kevlar vest, so the shots didn’t hurt him. Harry picks up the gunman’s gun, giving him two. Sanya arrives and takes care of the hitman while Father Forthill confirms activity in Chichen Itza (by writing, since his jaw is probably broken). Harry asks him to find out about the security there if he can and leaves Molly with him. Then he goes to the gunman and asks who hired him, offering to turn the man over to Marcone if he doesn’t say. The gunman spills and it turns out it’s Susan who hired him.

Harry ponders this for a bit. He doesn’t think the gunman is lying, so either Susan hired him, which doesn’t track, or someone wanted him to think it was Susan. Harry still needs more info, so he goes to buy some pizza and summons Toot-toot with Sanya backing him up. Toot appears and Harry tasks him to find Susan. Toot summons the Pizza Lord’s Guard and they track her down, informing Harry that she’s a captive. Of the FBI.

Harry sends Sanya back to Father Forthill and walks into the FBI building, asking to talk to Tilly. He finds him with Murphy and they spend some time trying to convince him of what’s going on. Harry asks him to get verification from Susan and while Tilly is away he asks for Murphy to take care of his will if he doesn’t come back. He also wants her to put Maggie somewhere safe, somewhere she won’t be a target for Harry’s enemies, somewhere he won’t even know where she is. And says Mouse should go with her. And Molly should get Mister. Then Rudolph enters Tilly’s office, tossing a cease-and-desist order at her taking her off the case. This could mean her job. Then the lights go out in the building and Harry can hear screams.

It’s the vamps and maybe their pet toy beast creature. Harry and Murphy grab Rudolph and go to fetch Tilly and Susan. Susan says that the vamps will kill everyone in the building so Harry can’t run. Instead he plans to hit the vamps and lure them, with Susan at his back, into the Nevernever. Which they do. Harry creates illusions full of soulfire to represent Murphy, Tilly and Rudolph. When the vamps appear, he opens a Way to the Nevernever and they land in a stone cavern filled with creatures that turn out to be goblins. The goblins round up the vampires and Harry realizes that he’s in the hall of the Erlking.

The Erlking has no cause to love Harry after their confrontation in Dead Beat, but Harry knows that faeries follow the rules of hospitality and swiftly establishes himself and Susan as his guests. Of course the Eebs do the same, also knowing the rules. They use their tongues to fight the battle (by speaking, not with some creepy Red Court tongue power) up until a troublesome goblin recommends a trial by combat. Susan and Harry fight not against the Eebs but against a footsoldier and the Devourer, the Ick, the beast from Rudolph’s house. It’s a hard fight, but Harry and Susan take down both of them, Harry at last pulling down rock from the cavern roof to crush the beast.

They return to the normal world a half hour later than they should have. With the time it will take to get to Chichen Itza, they will arrive very close to when the ritual takes place. They are helped by the timely arrival of Lea in a special car which will take them to Father Forthill’s. Lea also changes their clothes to befit the battle. Harry gets a kind of Conquistador-like armor and Susan gets a feathery look. Both come with special enchantments, though those will only last until noon. Lea also gives Harry back the bag with the two swords and Bob.

They gather up the troops, all girded for battle, and Harry hands out the two swords. Fidelacchius goes to Murphy and Amoracchius goes to Susan. Then they make their plan. Most of the group will cause a diversion so that Harry, Susan and Lea can grab Maggie, then they all fall back to a church sanctuary provided by Father Forthill. Harry puts off any talk of his now being the Winter Knight or working with Lea, but the possibility of him taking a dark road still weighs heavily on him.

In the limo ride to the place they have to travel from, Harry gets a call from Ebenezar. Things aren’t going well for the Council. Now they suspect Harry since he’s been otherwise occupied. And Duchess Arianna left some kind of disease in Edinburgh that’s laid up 60 wizards including Injun Joe. Harry tells Ebenezar that Maggie’s his child and Ebenezar tells him to go after her. Then, before leaving, Harry assures everyone that Lea is on their side and to trust her. Then they go into the Nevernever.

Harry leads them through a kaleidoscope of worlds before they reach their destination. Then Lea changes them all into hounds so that they can move faster. An interesting side effect of this is that Harry can understand Mouse now. And Mouse speaks. He leads them after Lea and the trip only takes ten minutes. Then Harry hears Mouse threatening Lea unless she turns them all back. And Mouse is pretty bad-ass. Lea asks how Harry won Mouse and Mouse says, “He didn’t. I won him.”

They change back and prepare to follow their plan. Then, though, a half-naked man runs into them followed by a vampire. The vampire screams before they are able to take it down. And Harry can tell the vampires are on alert. They have to change the plan into an assault. The sword bearers charge in with some of Molly’s illusion mojo and Harry taps into the ley line to work some earth magic increasing gravity around the vamps and crushing them. Susan identifies the vamps as feral canon fodder. Which means the Reds were expecting them.

Harry realizes that the vamps are veiled, so he has Molly reveal them and takes a few of them out with a handy fire and ice magic combo. Then, suspecting that there’s some tension between the Duchess Arianna and the Red King, Harry calls her out and he is invited to go meet with the Red King.

They are escorted to a pyramid full of vampires, the number of which stuns Harry. When Harry meets the Red King, the King is about to sacrifice a woman. Harry threatens him, which doesn’t amuse the Red King. Harry explains how the girl was stolen and that he wants Arianna and Maggie. He also threatens the King by saying that with his death curse he could hurt the Red King and make him vulnerable to his enemies (much the way that Harry’s mother hurt the White King). Harry also realizes that the Red King is a blood junkie. The Red King agrees to Harry’s request. Harry also asks to see Maggie, which he does, seeing her alive but terribly frightened and tired and held in chains.

The servant disappears and Harry, who has Bob in a folded up t-shirt, gets a chance to look at the ritual set up. Bob mentions that the ritual is like a crossbow or a gun. It’s all set up for the curse, and the final sacrifice aims it at the target. If it’s Maggie, it goes for him, Susan and Thomas.

They arrange the duel even though Martin and Sanya think things will go beyond that. Because it’s holy ground the rules are special—only the use of magic is allowed, within a certain area, and until one of them dies. Harry asks why Arianna took the girl to get to him, but she claims it was never about him, refusing to enlighten him. They fight and it doesn’t last long. Harry takes out Arianna, then calls for his daughter. The Red King refuses, claiming he never spoke directly to Harry, speaking only through his interpreter. Harry tries to take him out with fire, but he misses and the Red King and the Lords of Outer Night bring their wills to bear on Harry and his allies. Then he calls for Maggie, hoping to sacrifice her.

Harry is able to reach for Bob and asks the spirit to help, freeing him from the skull. Bob helps relieve the pressure on Harry and he gets to his feet, moving to Murphy and helping her shrug off the Red King’s power. She draws Fidelacchius and a voice speaks to her, sending out a light and disrupting the power of the Red King. The Lords of Outer Night focus on her and Harry sends Bob to her to help. With a swipe of the sword she takes out the will of the Lords of Outer Night.

The battle begins in earnest as the troops rush in, Sanya joining Murphy with his own sword, and Harry adds his magic to the fight as well. Then Molly comes in with her magic Rave and sends vamps reeling. But the Red Court forces are still overwhelming. Harry calls for help from Lea and she summons the Grey Council. Ebenezar’s power alone takes out hundreds of Red Court forces. He tosses Harry his staff and then summons the Blackstaff, the tool of his office. Another wizard opens a Way to the Nevernever and a group of kenku, Japanese bird people, come through. This frees Harry to go after Maggie.

Harry tries to grab Molly but she is shot, bleeding out. Thomas comes through to help tie off her leg and protect her so that Harry can get Maggie. Harry sends Mouse to help. Then he hooks up with Murphy and Sanya and Murphy manages to cut a huge swath through the vampires, even taking out a Lord of Outer Knight. Sanya and Murphy agree to hold off the forces so Harry can get to Maggie. He goes with Martin.

Harry makes it to Maggie just as the Red King arrives with several of the Lords. Their will freezes Harry again and the Red King prepares to sacrifice Maggie. But he is stopped by a brilliant white light which cuts off the Red King’s hand. It gives Harry a moment and he takes out one of the guards. He guesses it’s Susan, veiled by Lea’s magic and wielding Amoracchius. It gives Harry an opportunity, one he plans to act on when he sees Martin entering.

Except that Martin attacks Susan instead, revealing her, and himself. He had been working for the Reds all along, taking down the Fellowship from inside. All for the reward of ascension from the Red King. Martin also points out that Harry has a ceremonial knife on him. They seem royally screwed, but Harry establishes a mental link with Susan and tells her that if they can kill someone else, it will go after their bloodline. It makes Susan ask Martin why Arianna targeted Maggie. He explains it’s because it would go through Harry to Margaret LeFay’s father, the one who killed Duke Ortega. Harry puts it together. Ebenezar is his grandfather. It was the only way for the Reds to take him out. Harry thinks on it and it all makes sense.

Harry makes a decision and asks Susan through their link who might have told the Red Court about Maggie’s father. Susan asks Martin if he told them and he confirms it. Which sends Susan over the edge. She attacks Martin and he goes down. Harry soulgazes with him as it happens and realizes that Martin wasn’t really a traitor. He was working the Red King, positioning everything for just this moment. Martin dies and Susan turns into a full vampire.

Harry pushes his will against the weakest of the Lords of Outer Night, and the will breaks a bit and then the last of the Lords to enter reveals herself as Lea and takes on the others. It frees Harry and he attacks the Red King, wounding him severely. The Red King summons his people to him in his state. Harry grabs the knife, replacing Maggie on the altar with Susan. Then he uses it, killing Susan (Major Change #6), saving Maggie, and destroying the Red Court. All of them. Every one (Major Change #7).

They get out, all of them. Vadderung helps by providing transport, negotiated by Lea. Molly is airlifted along with Thomas and Mouse on a Navy copter. Harry makes Karrin promise to take Maggie to Father Forthill when they get back. Lea offers to take care of Susan’s body, burying it properly, and Thomas left Harry the keys to the Water Beetle since he doesn’t have a place to stay. He heads there and Murphy meets him, informing him that it looks like she’ll be out of a job soon. She mentions something about having mindless sex with the nearest reasonably healthy male and Harry expresses interest in helping her. She takes a moment, then says yes. Harry tries not to think about it too much, and gets ready to be picked up. As he walks outside the boat, he hears a shot and looks down to see he’s been shot through the chest. Then he falls into Lake Michigan.

Harry sees a light in front of him, at the end of a tunnel. He wants to move toward it. Then he hears a train coming at him.

Here the novel ends.

 

Threads

The War: Is presumably over. It was between the Red Court and the White Council and all of the Red Court is destroyed by the end of the book. That leaves the Black Court, the White Court and the mysterious Jade Court. But the war is clearly over.

The Councils: The behind-the-scenes wizards action seems to be getting dirtier. We suspect that Cristos, the new Council member, is in league with the Black Council. The White Council seems split. Only the Grey Council, Ebenezar’s group, seems to be focused. Ostensibly, though, with the war over, the White Council will be put back together. But by whom?

The Winter Knight: Harry finally decides to take Mab up on her offer of Winter Knighthood, something she’s offered to Harry twice before. Threes are important in the series, especially when dealing with faeries. Usually if you refuse someone three times, it’s over. Harry accepts before that happens. I know it’s seen as a bad thing, but for some reason I was always rooting for this to happen. I mean it’s great story material, and I always saw Harry more as the Winter Knight than, say, one of the Denarians. At least in this case he wouldn’t have a Fallen Angel in his head. Of course this brings us to….

Harry’s Dead: A new plot thread, introduced in this very book, but seemingly final. Harry dies at the end of the book. Or at least appears to.

That’s Changes, a book that lives up to his name. What did you think? Surprised? Worried? Concerned? Harry’s world has been literally torn apart? What happens next? That will come in the Cold Days post. But before that, an interlude when we cover the stories in the collection Side Jobs.


Rajan Khanna is a writer, narrator and blogger who loves both The Dresden Files and David Bowie. His website is www.rajankhanna.com and he tweets @rajanyk.

7 comments
Kasiki
1. Kasiki
Surprised that he didn't include Harry dies as Change #8.

There were many moments in this part of the book that are very touching. I always seem to tear up at the end with the final conversation between Murphy and Dresden, just as i know that the shot is comming yet am always shocked that it does. Also the fact that Harry get to take directions from his mom to travel through the never never and in many ways becomes a "Lafey" like his mom is something that both seemed eary, based on accounts on how the council persued his mother, and easing because his mother clearly was alot like Harry.

Finally getting to hear Mouse, and getting a better sense that many readers already understood, aka mouse is probably the smartest and most practicle being that lived in Harry's basement including Harry. The conversation with Leah truely was great.

My favorite part of this book though is the background conversation happening when they are trying to for the attack plan. The "Fellowship" background discussion that we only get bits and peices of is both hilarious ( Mruphy as Gimli any one?) and very touching (Harry is Sam).

Those background conversations are part of what make this series so fun.
Kasiki
2. TomT
Some creepy red court tounge power. Eeeewwwwwww.....

Anyway this is an amazing book where Jim proceeds to stomp all over Harry's comfortable world and turn everything upside down. When changes is over you know that Harry can't go back to what he was even if he hadn't been shot. The Harry that goes forward will be differrent in many ways from the Harry that proceeded this.

That said he is a logical out growth of the Harry we have seen. He starts off young, brash, prone to throwing himself into a situation without looking or thinking about it. And his solutions aren't always the best. Oh they solve the problem but did they do it the best way he could have? Those are flaws that the young Harry needed to grow out of. Particularly as he grows up and into power.
Kasiki
3. bungluna
For some reason, I kept hearing David Niven's voice in my head as I read the bits where Mouse Speaks.

I saw this book as a natural progression in the series. Up to now, Harry was all brawn and very little finesse. He solves the immediate problem but creates more that don't surface in some cases until years later. He's learned many hard lessons. Now he's free from his past and ready to move on to his future.

I appreciate so much how Butcher follows up on every little point in the series. If there's a magic sword in book three, we know it will be important by book 10. So many series leave dangling bits all over the place. Kudos to Jim for his thoroughness.
matt
4. graftonio
What happens next? That will come in the Cold Days post.



Pretty sure you mean Ghost Story
Kasiki
5. TomT
The problem is that so much of what I want to talk about Changes really requires talking about Ghost Story to properly express what is going on here. Its as if Changes/Ghost Story are really one story split in two. Even though Changes has nonstop action and Ghost Story is much more contemplative. The action of the first book leads into the contemplation of the second.

If I didn't know what was coming I could happily spend hours speculating, but because I have read through Cold Days I can't safely speculate without jumping ahead on somethings.
Emmet O'Brien
6. EmmetAOBrien
And that is one long drawn out final battle.

Even for an emotionally upset Harry, the extent of his failure to pay attention here is astounding. The Red King drops the "blood junkie" act the instant it no longer serves him, but Harry totally fails to see that; and of all the tactical ineptitude anyone shows in the series, Harry failing to ask Lea to do the bulletproofing she did for Susan for everyone else in the party is right up there.

There is so much manipulation going on that it's hard to separate the players at any given point. I am of the opinion that we are likely seeing one of the Merlin's three-layered plans in effect here; layer 1 being the White Council talking to the Red Court (still allowing for the possibility that they might willingly return to the status quo; the war between Grave Peril and White Night is clearly an aberration on the historical scale), layer 2 being the Grey Council, and layer 3 being cutting Harry off from support from either of those places and pushing him to look elsewhere and bring extra allies to the table.

I have no idea why you would suspect Cristos was in league with anyone evil; given what I said on the last post about the letters likely being fakes, his behaviour in this book works as either someone sincerely if optimistically wanting peace, or an agent of the Merlin's drawing Arianna to formally commit to peace while the Red Court plan war and therefore legally entrap her (much the same way Harry is entrapped in Grave Peril.)

It's interesting to think about precisely how long the greater powers have been setting Harry up for this. Uriel's involvement dates at least to Small Favour and possibly to Death Masks if you suspect the Lasciel plot of being engineered by Uriel in order to enable it to give Harry soulfire; Odin's, depending on how actively Gard has been tracking Harry, since possibly that far back (setting aside the question of how much foresight this particular take on Odin has as not really answerable for the moment), and with Harry's mother's close connections to Faerie, it seems plausible to me that Mab had a hand in the complex set of circumstances around Harry's birth, which per Lash at the end of White Night give him power over Outsiders. Collusion among those three powers is a tempting thought, given how visibly they are working together as of the end of Changes.
Kasiki
7. NullNix
No, they don't return to the normal world "a half hour later than they should have". Susan's watch says it's two, they were there for half an hour at the most, and they returned at 9:30pm, half an hour after the latest they could have *left* to get there on time. They lost seven and a half hours.

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